Many experts discussing the future of online search reckon it will become increasingly driven by actual data volumes rather than links, keywords and other existing SEO techniques. Indeed, that’s already the case with some of the highest volume searches – the brands which appear at the top of a generic search may not even feature the words of that search on their website. Google found that in response to such a search, people were finding that company’s website and clicking on it, and used its own user data as an ‘upvote’ which trumped what we’d normally consider to be more important.
In time, this will happen with increasingly more obscure searches, of the kind that you or I are concerned about. If you’re already a well-known brand, that’s great news, but if not, you need to start associating your name with that search term.
One reason Google is going down this route is because it’s quite aware that its existing rules are not a level playing field. If there are two similar stores with similar custom, the one which will do better in the search results will be the one which makes the effort in terms of traditional SEO. Google would prefer them to be presented equally, better reflecting the real world.
SEO can help with branding, and (as I’ve mentioned many times) branding can help with SEO. In the future, the two may be the same.